First collective agreements reached for 2001

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February saw the conclusion of the first collective agreements in the Netherlands' 2001 bargaining round. A deal in the small-scale construction sector provides for a 5.5% wage increase - rather higher than the 4% recommended by the FNV trade union confederation. The year's first agreement in the industrial sector was reached at Unilever, and includes provisions on performance-based pay, which remains a stumbling block in bargaining elsewhere.

In February 2001, the first collective agreement of the bargaining round was concluded in the "small-scale" construction sector, providing for a 5.5% wage increase. This was the first time that small-scale construction - essentially the manufacture of construction materials - had settled before the large-scale construction sector. Trade unions organising in large-scale construction sector consider the agreement a good example that should be followed in their sector. In addition to major wage increases -in excess of the 4% demanded by the Dutch Trade Union Federation (Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging, FNV) (NL0012115N) - the agreement provides that employees will benefit from a profit-sharing provision expected to equal between 5% and 6% of annual pay. Workers claiming disability benefits will receive a year-end bonus of NLG 300. Additional funds have been earmarked for childcare, extended maternity leave and the right to emergency and care leave.

The FNV union in the construction sector, FNV Bouw, had demanded a 6% increases in the 2001 bargaining round - attracting criticism from the chair of FNV. Negotiators in the large-scale construction sector entered a seventh round of discussions in February but have so far failed to reach an agreement. The employers are offering a 4.25% wage increase, but this would be spread over a 12-month period and the average increase would be 2% in 2001 - much lower than the overall FNV demand. Employers regard this offer as serious and justified. Furthermore, they wish to replace existing one-off payments with a more modern version that depends on the economic cycle, and they also hope to introduce the option of reaching supplementary agreements at company level, over and above the sectoral agreement.

An agreement was also reached at the Unilever food and chemicals group (which bargains at company level) at the end of February 2001. The agreement, valid for a two-year period, awards the 4,300 employees a 3.85% wage increase in 2001 and the same in 2002. In addition, the parties agreed to a result-oriented bonus of up to 5% in 2001 and 6% in 2002. Performance-based pay has so far been something of a stumbling block in the 2001 bargaining at both the Akzo Nobel chemicals concern and the police force. The police authorities have earmarked 2% of the budget for regional police forces to award performance-based payment. The trade unions claim that police performance cannot be objectively evaluated, whereas the government and police authorities believe that efficient working methods and increased safety for citizens can indeed be measured.

No agreement was reached regarding a union demand for the publication of executive salaries at Unilever. FNV is extremely concerned about the issue of rising executive salaries. While the union federation has proposed moderate wage demands in the face of prevailing tension in the labour market, management board members at the Phillips electrical group, for example, will be awarded an increase of 13.8% in 2001.

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